After much ado and plenty of hemming and hawing, I finally purchased my very first kitchen torch. The delay in purchase wasn’t because of a want for latent pyromaniac tendencies (as I quickly discovered while flaming my first pot of custard) but because I really couldn’t convince myself to purchase a highly niche kitchen tool that is pretty much only used to make the one thing. What finally tipped me over the edge was the confirmation of all of my summer trip details and the subsequent realization that I will be out of town for both Mother’s Day and my mother’s birthday (oops), and so I figured that I would at least try to make it up to her by baking up her absolute favorite dessert.
Now that I’ve finally pulled together my very first batch of crème brûlée, I’m genuinely surprised by how easy they are to make. I always have this image of my mind of notoriously finicky French patisserie staples like the infamous macaron, and so I begin nearly every French recipe I undertake with great trepidation toward likely failure. Not so with crème brûlée! Boasting what is probably the shortest ingredient list that I have ever posted on this blog, the treat of the week is surprisingly low maintenance and a snap to pull together well in advance of serving.
(They’re also incredibly satisfying to eat. There’s nothing quite like shattering the top layer of caramelized sugar with the back of your spoon when you dig into that first bite.)
All you do is mix the ingredients together (the only real trick here is to remember to whisk constantly as you pour the warm-and-not-hot milk into the egg yolks), bake, chill, top with sugar, and flambé to your heart’s delight! That’s literally it. The hardest part is waiting for the custard to set fully in the refrigerator before digging in, but I promise that the texture that comes from a nice long chill is totally worth it.
So if you’re looking (way) ahead toward Mother’s Day or any other time when you’re looking to impress, give this recipe a try for an elevated but shockingly effortless treat. Hope you enjoy!
Recipe from Alton Brown
Makes 4 crème brûlées in 4″ ramekins
1 1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped for seeds (place the pods in a jar of sugar for vanilla sugar!)
2 egg yolks
3 tbs vanilla sugar (or regular granulated sugar)
- Preheat the oven to 325 deg. F. Place on oven rack about 1/3 of the way from the bottom of the oven.
- In a small saucepan, whisk together the milk and vanilla bean seeds, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Set the saucepan aside to cool slightly.
- Beat together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is frothy and the sugar is dissolved. Slowly pour in the warm milk mixture, whisking as you pour to prevent the eggs from scrambling.
- Divide the mixture among the 4 ramekins, then place the ramekins in a deep(-ish) baking pan. Fill the pans with water until the ramekins are about halfway submerged, then place the pans in the oven to bake for 40 min, or until the edges of the creme are fully set and the center is barely still wobbly.
Tip: I’ve also made these in shallower oval ramekins. To bake a creme that is about 1/2″-2/3″ in depth, bake for about 24 min, or until the edges fully set.
- Chill the creme in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or until fully chilled, then top with a generous layer of granulated sugar. Scorch the tops of the sugar with a kitchen torch until the sugar is liquid and bubbly and turns brown. Allow the sugar to set for about 5-10 minutes, top with berries, and serve within the hour. Enjoy!